Rain in dry northern Nevada is unusual, averaging about seven inches of precipitation a year. Lately we’ve had these crazy monsoonal rains. They come hard and fast, with hail, wind and pounding rain, and last about an hour. They cause instant flooding here because we just don’t know how to absorb that kind of water.
My husband and I took the dog hiking in the desert after it had a chance to dry from three days of these crazy rains, and we were shocked how the landscape had changed. Sharp rocks, formerly covered in dirt, were exposed and made walking difficult. We had to tread gingerly to stay upright and keep our balance. Deep ruts where people had trekked through the mud made walking much more fatiguing. And landslides covered some of the trail, which caused us to look and listen carefully for safe passage over or around these obstructions. I was glad we were on this hike together as I would have felt rather unsafe were I alone; it would have been easy to fall or twist an ankle.
It reminded me of what it feels like to be a part of the American culture right now. Things keep shifting dramatically. Almost every day there is a storm that changes the landscape of our nation. Gays are getting greater civil rights, racism is getting uncovered for all to see, and the confederate flag is coming down. These big changes, these epic shifts, will eventually make us a better place if we can negotiate them well.
The problem is, how do we negotiate these changes well. If you’re like me, change is hard. Actually, I love change, if I’m the one choosing it. Then it feels like adventure. But, if change is thrust upon me from outside, I find myself kicking hard against it. Some people have kicked hard against the culture shifts we are currently experiencing and now their feet hurt because no amount of kicking can stop a culture shift.
How then, do we negotiate these changes with grace? Here are some ideas from my recent hike:
1. Sharp rocks, formerly covered in dirt, were exposed and make walking difficult. You have to tread gingerly to stay upright and keep your balance.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say when you are faced with a culture shift. It’s easy to shut down and stop moving. The key is to keep walking. Walk slowly and carefully forward, engaging as much as you can with those around you who are also experiencing this shift. It may feel scary and strange, but God is still on the throne. None of this is outside of his providence. He wants to heal our landand we must keep moving forward to experience that healing. Be patient and gentle, sharp rocks (hurtful words) might be painful, try not to kick them at each other. We are all just trying to figure this out.
2. Deep ruts where people had trekked through the mud, and were now dried, make walking much more fatiguing.
These changes might leave you feeling particularly fatigued. Be kind to yourself: rest, take breaks from the news and social media. But, don’t stay in that place too long. We need to continue the walk toward healing together.
3. Landslides covered some of the trail, which caused us to look and listen carefully for safe passage over or around these obstructions.
Right now, the most important thing we can offer each other is keeping our eyes open and listening carefully. Understanding will be the key to navigating these shifts together. If you find someone who has a different opinion or experience than yours keep your mouth closed and listen. Try to see the world from their point of view. Look for things you can agree on and start the discussion there. Talking about racism or LGBTQ issues can be uncomfortable. Be willing to be uncomfortable. We all in this together and we need to listen to each other in love.
4. I was glad we were on this hike together as I would have felt rather unsafe were I alone; it would have been easy to fall or twist an ankle.
Most importantly, we need to help each other. The best way to understand the LGBTQ experience is to make a friend from that community. Really get to know someone; it’s impossible to hate someone you have spent time getting to know.
The same is true with racism. Spend time with someone who looks different than you do. Really listen, invite each other over share food. Do this in community. We are on this hike together and we need to be there when the going gets tough.
Pretty soon your gay friend will become just — your friend. Your black friend will become just – your friend. Pretty soon we will see beyond our differences and see each other as fellow hikers on this new path together.
How are you feeling about the shifts in our culture today? What have you found helpful in negotiating the changes?
(One thing I’m trying is writing a book from the experience of a marginalized population. It’s my way of trying to identify with the daily issues of those who have been kept out and made to feel “other.” Please join me in my small attempt to change the world by pre-ordering “Cracker,” and sharing the link to this book).